Monday, May 21, 2007

You Call That Shocking? THIS Is Shocking

I've listed Gargantua and Pantagruel as one of my favorite books in my profile. It is. I love Rabelais. For someone who spent his childhood being told that telling the truth was lewd, it is a huge relief to see page after page of nonstop unrelenting in-your-face vulgarity, venality, and coarse depraved degradation, as well as simple crudity. Also, if I post a passage from it, maybe people will realize that what I write isn't anywhere as crude as what it could be, and I will get cut some slack. Ha. I kid.

I wish I could find a decent translation online. The one at Online Books is hopelessly arcane and confused. So I will just type out here one of my favorite passages from the J.M. Cohen Penguin Classics version. It's Chapter 13, Book 1, the final paragraph describing the end of Gargantua's search for the perfect arse-wipe:

'After that' said Gargantua, 'I wiped myself with a kerchief, with a pillow, with a slipper, with a game-bag, with a basket -- but what an unpleasant arse-wiper that was! -- then with a hat. And note that some hats are smooth, some shaggy, some velvety, some of taffeta, and some of satin. The best of all are the shaggy ones, for they make a very good abstersion of the fecal matter. Then I wiped myself with a hen, a cock, and a chicken, with a calf's skin, a hare, a pigeon, and a cormorant, with a lawyer's bag, with a penitent's hood, with a coif, with an otter. But to conclude, I say and maintain that there is no arse-wiper like a well-downed goose, if you hold her neck between your legs. You must take my word for it, you really must. You get a miraculous sensation in your arse-hole, both from the softness of the down and from the temperate heat of the goose herself; and this is easily communicated to the bum-gut and the rest of the intestines, from which it reaches the heart and the brain. Do not imagine that the felicity of the heroes and demigods in the Elysian Fields arises from their asphodel, their ambrosia, or their nectar, as those ancients say. It comes, in my opinion, from their wiping their arses with the neck of a goose, and that is the opinion of Master Duns Scotus too.'

[Above: asphodel]

[Right: "Dr. Subtilis" Scotus]

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